French presidential candidates have a different approach to falling numbers of farmers – EURACTIV.com

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Over the next decade, 45% of French farmers will retire, which represents a major challenge for the next president in terms of food autonomy and generational renewal. EURACTIV France reports.

On March 30, during a congress of the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA)the organization has invited the main candidates for the French presidential election (those who vote above 2%) to present their programs on the issue and to answer questions from representatives of the sector.

Fabien Roussel (French Communist Party, PCF), Marine Le Pen (National GatheringRN), Emmanuel Macron (The Republic On the Move!LREM), Eric Zemmour (reconquest), Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains, LR) and Jean Lassalle accepted the invitation.

Only Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far left France rebelliousLFI) and Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecology The GreensEELV) decreased.

A new generation of farmers

The figures are striking: 55% of French farmers are now over 50 years old, and nearly half will retire in ten years. While there was 1.6. million French farmers in the early 1980s, today there are less than 400,000. According to INSEE data, their share of employment has fallen from 7.1% in 1982 to 1.5% in 2019.

To fill this future shortage, Fabien Roussel, the first to speak, announced that he wanted to reach 500,000 farmers by 2030. This means increasing from 20,000 to 25,000 farmers per year. “Otherwise, we will not be able to feed our fellow citizens,” he warned.

Macron, questioned remotely from his campaign headquarters, put forward a somewhat more modest objective.

“Given the age pyramid, we need to reach 20,000 per year, compared to 12,000 to 14,000 today. This ambition is enshrined in his “law for the orientation and future of agriculture” which he presented at the end of February at the International Agricultural Show.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who did not participate in the debate, is the most ambitious, aiming to create at least 300,000 new agricultural jobs if he takes office. These jobs would be based on agro-ecological and food projects, integrating all these “people not from the agricultural sector”.

To ensure the entry of the next generation into agriculture, all the candidates insist on the importance of training. Even if “the peasant schools have never been so full”, as recalled by Samuel Vandaele, the president of the Young Farmers, an agricultural union dedicated to youth.

Concretely, Roussel wants to double the means of agricultural training. Macron wants to “reinforce” it in his future law, while Zemmour and Le Pen insist on learning.

For Le Pen, farmers must be encouraged to hire young apprentices and help those who work on the farms in parallel with their studies. Le Pen announced that the State would contribute to the financing of these “surcharges” to relieve employers.

Help setting up a farm

Beyond training, facilitating access to land is a key element in all programs. If a young person wishes to take over a farm, Le Pen, Zemmour and Lassalle – who was the last to speak – inheritance rights should be abolished, with a few conditions such as keeping the farm for 10 years.

Similarly, Pécresse offers a 95% tax exemption on inherited property.

In the event of the acquisition of land outside the family framework, such as the purchase or rental, the “land piggyback” system will be included in Macron’s orientation law and is also part of Pécresse’s commitments.

This system allows young people to spread the costs of creating a business by paying only for the construction of the building, for example, while postponing the payment for the purchase of the land.

Pécresse also wants to abolish the capital gains tax on the sale of land to a young farmer, while Zemmour proposes to increase the Young Farmer endowment, DJA, start-up aid, and to put in place measures of sponsorship.

While right-wing candidates such as Pécresse, Le Pen and Lassalle are generally committed to family farming and therefore wish to facilitate land transfer through tax exemptions, left-wing candidates are more interested in public structures to facilitate land transfer. access to land.

Mélenchon thus wishes to create new rural public land institutions to lower the price of land and maintain land dedicated to agricultural projects that are environmentally and socially beneficial.

But Anne Hidalgo was perhaps the most insistent on this issue of the installation of young farmers. She plans to pass “a law to regulate, share and protect agricultural land, and a ten-year plan to renew generations”.

Not forgetting the old

Accompanying the transition from one generation to another cannot be done without taking into account those who are leaving: the elders.

In addition to the general proposals of the candidates on retirement, Pécresse made a point of specifying that a supplement of retirement pension would be allotted to the transferor who accompanies a young person.

She also announced that no one, starting with farmers, would receive less than the minimum wage in France (SMIC). Similarly, widows who have not contributed will see their survivor’s pension increase from 54% to 75%.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Mélenchon intends to raise agricultural pensions to the level of the revalued minimum wage (that is to say €1,400 net per month).

“Take over a farm, because you are the son [of the farmer] or because you bought or rented it, should no longer be associated with panic fear,” Lassalle stressed.

Lassalle, himself the son of a farmer, plans to allocate 3 billion euros from the budget to the development of French rural areas.

Watch the speeches and exchanges here (in French).

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]

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